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March 2023 Annuity Purchase Update

• Average annuity purchase rates increased as of March 1st – with the average duration 7 annuity purchase rate at 4.84% and average duration 15 annuity purchase rate at 4.77%.

• The Pension Risk Transfer Market started the year strong as plan sponsors continue to take steps toward plan termination.

• Annuity Purchase Interest Rates are over 200 basis points higher than 12 months ago.

• Insurance carriers are reaching capacity constraints given the high volume of placement inquiries in the first quarter. Plan sponsors should consider connecting with an annuity search firm soon.


Annuity purchase interest rates followed an upward trend in 2022, but for 2023 we are showing a more fluctuating pattern to the change in rates. To hedge against a potential loss as a result of dropping rates, plan sponsors could consider settling the retiree liability earlier on. Although rates have since declined, the average annuity rates as of March 1st were higher than last month with the average duration 7 annuity rate at 4.84% and the average duration 15 annuity rate at 4.77%. As noted in the Pension Finance Update, pension funding improved suggesting an opportune time for plan sponsors to settle all or a portion of their pension liability. Plan sponsors have been making quick progress in effort to terminate their pension plans. With such high volume, it is crucial to enter the market place sooner rather than later to take exploit favorable pricing.

In 2022 the average duration 7 annuity rate was 3.71% and the average duration 15 annuity purchase rate was 3.76%. Thus far in 2023, average annuity interest rates have been higher than the average rates observed in 2022. As seen in the graph below, annuity interest rates and treasury rates vary over time. Since January of 2022, we have seen rates hit a record high. The 10 year treasury rates correlate with the duration 7 annuity purchase interest rates. Similarly, the 30 year treasury rates correlate with the duration 15 annuity purchase interest rates. Given the volatility in rates and surge in market activity, a timely entry into the market place is critical for plan sponsors to receive favorable pricing. Implementing a Pension Risk Transfer strategy can help a plan sponsor fulfill organizational goals, including reducing volatility in financial disclosures due to volatile interest rates.

Top 3 ways PRT is lowering plan costs

The graph below shows the spread between annuity purchase price above GAAP projected benefit obligation (PBO). We refer to GAAP PBO and accounting book value interchangeably. In March 2023, the spread for Annuity Plan 1 and Annuity Plan 2 narrowed, inching closer to the GAAP PBO liability. An increase in annuity purchase rates inversely lowers annuity purchase prices relative to accounting book value. Please note, that the below PBO calculations exclude future overhead costs paid by plan sponsors to retain participants in the plan. Administrative expenses and PBGC premiums are examples of these overhead costs. Future overhead costs would narrow the spread, though the extent is plan specific.

The graph below represents the annuity purchase price relative to GAAP projected benefit obligation (PBO) of the actual retiree cases placed by October Three Annuity Services since 2021. Historically, the annuity purchase cost was consistently between 95% – 105% of the pension accounting value with the average at 100.23%. Keep in mind that the below PBO calculations excludes fees. As seen in the graph below, majority of market activity occurs in the third and fourth quarter. We typically see a rush closer to the end of the year however the first quarter has been vigorous. The Pension Risk Transfer Market kicked off 2023 with a strong start and we anticipate this activity to continue through out the year.

Annuity purchase costs continuously change from month to month. Since last month, the purchase price decreased drastically for Annuity Plan 1 by 3.01% and Annuity Plan 2 decreased by 5.53%. An early entrance to the insurance market is a vital component of the planning stage because of the consistent short-term volatility of annuity pricing. The earlier a plan can enter the Pension Risk Transfer market the more likely plan sponsors can capitalize on favorable changes in the market.

Additional Risk Mitigation Strategies to Consider

It continues to be difficult to predict any market changes in the future, however the market currently shows some improvements in the annuity purchase interest rates but still prove to be volatile. Annuity purchases for plan sponsors do not need to occur on an all-or-nothing basis. Many plan sponsors can benefit by purchasing annuities even for a subset of plan participants. This is especially true for retirees with small benefit amounts. In 2022, we saw an increase in the number of lift-out transactions. Plan sponsors pay PBGC premiums for participants that do not vary based on the size of the participant’s benefit. For retirees with small benefit amounts, the PBGC premium overhead burden is substantial and can be eliminated through an annuity purchase. Retiree carveouts have controlled a vast majority of market activity in 2022 so we are expecting to see more plan terminations in 2023.

Have a pension risk transfer need but not sure where to start? See our article, What to look for when comparing Annuity Search Firms

*October Three advises plan sponsors through every step of the Pension Risk Transfer (PRT) process. Through long established relationships with insurers in the PRT marketplace, October Three collects annuity purchase rates for Duration 7 years and Duration 15 years on a monthly basis. We have constructed 2 hypothetical annuity plans which have been valued using the latest mortality tables and mortality improvement scales. Annuity Plan 1 contains retirees only and has a liability duration of 7 years. Annuity Plan 2 contains 70% retirees and 30% deferreds and has a liability duration of 15 years. Monthly annuity rates are determined by taking the average Duration 7 and Duration 15 interest rates provided from the insurers. Annuity Plan 1 was valued using the average of the Duration 7 year interest rates collected from insurers and Annuity Plan 2 was valued using the average of the Duration 15 year interest rates collected from insurers. Using the collected annuity purchase rates and 2 hypothetical annuity plans, we have produced the following graphs representative of actual PRT market activity and the corresponding impact on pension plans.

What to Read Next

February 2023 Pension Finance Update

In February, pension finances saw positive growth despite falling stock markets, thanks to higher interest rates. The traditional plan, Plan A, improved by 2%, while Plan B saw a fractional improvement, bringing both up to almost 3% and 1% respectively for the year. While stocks lost ground, bonds saw an increase in interest rates and credit spreads, causing losses of 2%-4%, but remaining up by 1% for the year. Pension liabilities are driven by market interest rates, and while corporate bond yields rose by 0.4% in January, pension liabilities fell by 4%-6%. The overall effect in the first two months of the year has been a modest boost for pension finances. However, the increase in rates has eroded the impact of relief from funding requirements, which were relaxed in March and November 2021 legislation. Effective discount rates are expected to be in the range of 4.9%-5.2%, and the table summarizes rates that plan sponsors are required to use for IRS funding purposes for 2023, along with estimates for 2024.